Panthers Notebook: Disgruntled OLB Brian Burns Will Rush To Play; G Cade Mays Earns Start; WR DJ Chark May Return On Monday Night Football

panthers brian burns enters mnf with no new deal (1)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Brian Burns is trying to focus on football after recent contract extension negotiations flamed out. 

Entering last Sunday’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons, Burns skipped two practices, leaving coach Frank Reich concerned about the Panthers’ leading pass rusher dressing for the season opener. 

Burns did play and compiled two sacks and one forced fumble, proving again his defensive worth. Still, without a contract resolution, Burns appears content to play out the final season of his rookie deal. 

“I would probably say (contract talks are) on hold,” Burns said following Saturday’s practice at Bank of America Stadium’s back fields. “We haven’t really been in talks. I already told ’em once the season starts, I’m all about ball. I can’t give 1000 percent on the field and to my teammates if I’m still worried about contract negotiations.  

“And I feel like I owe that to them — to be 100 percent, 1000 percent balled-in at all times.” 

The two-time Pro Bowler is making approximately $16 million after the Panthers picked up his fifth-year option. Burns, who tallied a team-high 12.5 sacks last season, wants to be one of the NFL’s highest-paid edge rushers. 

Would Burns stop and listen if the Panthers’ brass improved their current offer? 

“If it made sense to … we’ll cross that road once we get there,” Burns said. “But as of right now, I’m all for my teammates and my coaches.” 

Burns is expected to start when the Panthers face the visiting New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football.

Panthers Going With Young Guards On Monday Night Football

With starting left guard Brady Christensen lost for the season following surgery on his biceps, Reich is turning to “the next man up:” Cade Mays. 

In his second season, Mays earned the start, but the Panthers’ coach indicated a rotation could be utilized Monday. 

“There may be some rotation there, maybe not,” Reich said. “We’ll see how it goes.” 

 Rookie Chandler Zavala is set to make his second professional start, likely at right guard. 

With Austin Corbett (ACL) sidelined during the offseason, Mays was expected to contend for the right guard assignment, but a neck injury set back the 2022 sixth-round draft pick. 

If Reich decides to go with a guard rotation, rookie Nash Jensen and veteran Justin McCray could be the first to come off the bench. 

Injured WR DJ Chark Could Be On ‘Pitch Count’ In Return 

Veteran wide receiver DJ Chark, one of the Panthers’ top free-agent pick-ups last offseason, missed Week 1 with a hamstring injury. A full participant during Saturday’s practice, Reich expects Chark to help bolster the receiving corps Monday night. 

“DJ was full today, so he’ll be ready for the game as long as he doesn’t have any setbacks from today,” said Reich, confirming Chark participated in the entire practice. “I thought he looked good.” 

The Panthers’ vertical passing game was virtually non-existent last Sunday. Chark, who has 177 career receptions and 18 touchdowns, is expected to aid rookie quarterback Bryce Young, who is slated to make his second NFL start. 

Reich said he will determine how many plays Chark can handle during the game.  

 “We’ll see if he’s on a pitch count or not,” Reich said. “We’ll play that by ear as we go.”

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